Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

So now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time to turn our attention to baseball. Most MLB clubs have their starting lineups for the most part, and the only big name free agent still on the market is Roy Oswalt. That means its time for the most exciting part of the year (for nerds): FANTASY BASEBALL TIME!

Now, it’s been a while since I’ve dropped some fantasy baseball knowledge. You can view my first post on the subject here. I’ll be focusing on this topic more often than not, and in case anyone cares, my tips and prognostications are geared to my particular league, which is a 12-team AL/NL head to head points league. I’m not going to bore anyone with the scoring system, but just realize I am coming from a head-to-head perspective, though when I see a player who I think could be of use in a rotisserie league, I’ll be sure to say so.

Draft Prep 101 – Tiers

I find the most helpful pre-draft strategy is putting players into tiers by position. I label the tiers as follows:

Elite – Self-explanatory. Among the best at their position, a no-brainer early round pick.

Near-Elite – Just below the elite players; arguably worthy of an early round pick. Someone you can feel confident starting week in and week out.

Above Average – Will see lots of playing time, but a player whose production could be a question mark due to durability, possible platoon, or injury issue. Worth a mid-round pick.

Average – A suitable backup, has the potential to outpace his draft position. Worth a pick in the later middle rounds.

Everybody Else – The rest of the gang. Players with either no firm hold on a starting job, or definitely in a platoon situation, or just not that good.

If you have players ranked by tiers, it becomes easier to address your team’s needs on the fly during the draft, and helps to ensure you don’t grab a player too early relative to his value.

Draft Prep 102 – Position Scarcity

I use position scarcity in tandem with my tiers in order to help me have a better draft. Certain positions, most notably 2B, SS, and C, have a VERY steep drop-off in talent between even elites and near-elites. Let’s say you’re in the fourth round of your draft, and your first three picks were an elite starting pitcher, an elite OF, and an elite 1B. Your pick is coming back around, and all the elite and near-elite 2Bs are off the board. You may, in this position, wish to draft an above average candidate for your 2B slot, even though it may appear you are reaching. I realize this flies in the face of most fantasy draft advice which is “pick the best player on the board,” but this method has worked for me in the past.

Tiering Up

I’ll conclude the article with my tiers for one of the weakest positions on the diamond from a fantasy baseball perspective: catcher.

ELITE:

Santana Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#1

Carlos Santana, Indians

The 26-year old Dominican was lost to the Indians after season ending knee surgery in 2010, but came back with a vengeance in 2011. He brings a rare combination of patience and power – in 2011, Santana walked 97 times and blasted 27 HRs while driving in 79 runs. He also rang up 35 doubles. To be sure, his .239 average and 133 K’s could have killed you in a rotisserie league, but he was money in a head-to-head league. Not only does he switch-hit and have tons of room for improvement, but he can DH or play 1B on days he doesn’t catch, netting him scads of additional at-bats. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s only 325 feet down the lines at Progressive Field.

Mccann Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#2

Brian McCann, Braves

Lack of eligibility at another position and no opportunity to DH are all that separates the 28-year-old Georgia native from the top spot. McCann is coming off a “down year” in 2011, primarily because he rushed back in 3 weeks from a strained oblique muscle in July. After his return, he struggled at the plate, going .180 over his last 37 games, although his .270/24/71 line, coupled with 57 walks, still ranked him among the top head-to-head scorers in fantasy baseball. You can’t argue with his consistency, as he has hit better than 20 HR’s in 4 straight seasons.

Napoli Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#3

Mike Napoli, Rangers

Another catcher who spent time on the DL with an oblique injury in 2011, the 30-year-old Floridian took the opposite track as McCann. When Napoli went on the DL after 25 games, he was hitting .220 with 10 HR and 25 RBI. Returning after a month on the DL, Napoli went en fuego the rest of the way, raking to the tune of .378/20/50 over his final 67 games. Couple the fact that he can DH or play 1B with the rest of the Rangers’ batting order, and Napoli is easily worth an early round pick if you want a legitimate #1 catcher.

NEAR ELITE:

Posey Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#4

Buster Posey, Giants

We all remember it: May 26th, 2011. Scott Cousins barrelling down the line and absolutely crushing Posey at home plate, knocking the 25-year-old Georgian backwards with his foot caught under him. (video here) The result: a broken ankle and torn ligaments, and Posey was lost to the Giants after only 25 games. The 2010 Rookie of the Year says he’s a go for spring training, and with youth and athleticism, who can doubt him? There’s no doubt about what he brings to the table: Posey’s 2010 numbers were outstanding: .305/18/67 in just over 400 at-bats. Posey also has the luxury of  playing 1B occasionally. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that Posey returns to 2010 form, but I have left him out of the elite due to the severity of his injury and the underwhelming Giants lineup. I wouldn’t fault anyone taking Posey early in a draft, but I’m a worrier. That’s why my friends call me Whiskers. (+1 if you got that reference.)

Avila Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#5

If you drafted Alex Avila in 2011, allow me to congratulate you on your powers of clairvoyance. Nothing in the 25-year-old Floridian’s pedigree could have prepared fantasy baseball owners for the numbers Avila would put up: .295/19/82 in 464 ABs. Add in 73 walks and a .389 OBP, and this guy was a points machine, although he did strike out once every 4 AB’s. He tailed off at the end of the year due to a bum knee, turning in a putrid postseason in which he batted .073 in 41 AB’s. The  Tigers attributed the injury to overuse, and Tigers skipper Jim Leyland has pledged to get Avila some days off behind the plate. With Victor Martinez out for the season with a torn ACL, Avila could find a number of additional AB’s at the DH slot. There is no question that the Tigers will score runs with MVP candidates Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder most likely batting 3-4 in an explosive lineup. My hesitation with Avila is the lack of track record he comes with. Can he put up the same gaudy numbers he did in 2011? If he slips into the 6th round, he’s a bargain, but I wouldnt reach for him earlier than that.
mauer Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#6

This is one I wrestled with for a while, because Mauer is one of my favorite players. The 29-year old native son of Minnesota had a 2011 to forget, suffering through surgery and pneumonia, batting nearly 40 points lower than his career average of .323. His last monster year was 2009, when the Twins still played in the Metrodome. He won the AL MVP that year, posting a line of .365/28/96. The move to Target Field in 2010 (and the beginning of his knee problems) dropped his line to .327/9/75. He is on record as saying he is 100 percent healthy coming into 2012, and the Twins have signed Ryan Doumit to back him up behind the plate. It’s entirely possible Mauer can, if healthy, make another run at a batting title, but Target Field will likely keep his HRs in the low double digits. I’m sure I’m being overly cautious, and I’m sure most of you will ignore this advice, but I wouldn’t make a play for Mauer until round 6.
Weiters Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#7

The 25-year-old from South Carolina was a first-round pick in the 2007 draft, and he put up video game-like numbers in the minors. While I would hesitate to use the term “bust”, Wieters’ first 2 big league seasons did little to distinguish him from the rest of the catchers in the majors. That changed in 2011, when Wieters rode a hot second half to finish with a .262/22/68 line. Coming into his fourth season in the majors, surrounded by a decent offensive lineup, and playing in a great hitters park, Wieters has the potential to far outstrip his draft position. Target him in the 6th round, though in many leagues he good be gone earlier.
ABOVE AVERAGE:
mmontero Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#8

The 28-year-old Venezuelan bounced back from a surgery-shortened 2010 season to post a career year, appearing in 140 games and slashing his way to a line of .282/18/86. His near-daily playing time and above-average power bat make him worthy of an early middle round pick.
jmontero Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#9

Jesus Montero, Mariners

Another Venezuelan Montero, Jesus is a 22-year-old wunderkind who has consistently been ranked the best offensive prospect in the minors. His cup of coffee with the Yankees in 2011 was impressive: .328/4/12 in just 61 AB. Expectations need to be tempered, however. He is leaving a great hitters ballpark where he had excellent lineup protection, and lands in Seattle’s spacious Safeco protected by the likes of Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley. Still, the fact that he will get everyday at-bats and his very high ceiling could place him in the top tier of catchers by year’s end. My ranking him 9th has only to do with his limited major league pedigree.

 

molina Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#10

The 29-year old Puerto Rico native has always been solid, if not spectacular. 2011 was his best year in the majors, as he produced a line of .305/14/65, all career highs. He plays every day, and if he can come close to those numbers again, he’d be a nice pickup in the middle rounds.
AVERAGE:
Ramos Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#11

Wilson Ramos, Nationals

The 24-year old Venezuelan had the scare of a lifetime in the 2011 offseason, getting kidnapped while visiting his home country. Ramos handled most of the catching duties for the Nats in 2011, and is poised to see an uptick in his playing time this season. He put up a stat line of .267/15/52 in 2011, and nothing seems to stand in the way of him eclipsing those numbers in 2012. Target Ramos in the later middle rounds.

 

russell martin Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#12

Russell Martin, Yankees

Martin was once an elite catcher with the Dodgers, but a hip problem that eventually required surgery made the Canadian expendable, and good thing for the Yankees: he had a bounce-back year in 2011. Although the average was lacking at .237, Martin did crack 18 HRs and drove in 65 runs. He plays in a great hitter’s park, and has tons of lineup protection. If he can get his average back above .260, he’s a solid everyday catcher. A great late-round pick.

arencibia Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#13

J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays

You may ask yourself how I could possible have the 26-year-old Miami native ranked so low, being as he hit 23 HRs and drove in 78 as a rookie. The trouble was, other than homers, Arencibia contributed almost nothing. He batted only .219, and struck out 133 times. He has a big-time prospect right behind him in Travis d’Arnaud, and could find himself platooning. If he steps up, shows improvement, and cements his hold on the job, he could be a steal in the later rounds.

soto Fantasy Baseball With PhDinWeed, Issue 1: Catcher Rankings

#14

Geovany Soto, Cubs

If his career statistics mean anything, the 29-year-old native of Puerto Rico could be in for a big year. He followed up his 2008 Rookie of The Year season with a stinker in 2009, came back strong in 2010, and had an underwhelming 2011, going .228/17/54, and setting a career high in strikeouts. The Cubs, as well as fantasy owners, will need a big season from Soto. Any sooner than a late round pick is too soon.

Final Thoughts

Catcher is the most physically demanding position on the diamond, and among the weakest in fantasy baseball. An elite catcher, in my experience, can often be the difference between a W and an L. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject! Be sure to leave a comment and/or follow me on twitter @phdinweed.

 

 

About phdinweed
Father of 2 sons on the autism spectrum, wage slave, socially functional nerd of all sorts. Just entered my 40's, but still love video games (RPGs especially), cartoons, fart jokes, and getting nice.

Leave a Comment...